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Delaware Solar rebate relief.

JUNE 1, 2010

No wait for that Delaware solar rebate

Residential projects are first in line for stimulus funds

By AARON NATHANS • The News Journal • May 31, 2010

Delawareans who have installed solar panels will no longer have to wait years for their state rebate checks.

About $1.3 million in federal stimulus funds will allow the state to clear much of the solar rebate waiting list, which had grown to 18 months to two years, said Collin O’Mara, secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

The average rebate will be between $6,000 and $12,000, O’Mara said.

The 133 residential rebate applications for renewable energy projects that are verified as complete will be the first to get checks, O’Mara said.

The state could issue the checks in the next month or two, O’Mara said. That’s a combined rebate value of $1.75 million, he noted.

Owners of six completed commercial solar projects also will get checks totaling $445,000, he said.

The stimulus money will be supplemented with funds moved over from a state research and development demonstration program, he said. The funds allotted to the program had not been awarded for this year, freeing up the money, O’Mara said.

Another 87 residential applications are due about $680,000 of rebates, and 14 commercial rebate applications valued at $1.1 million, are for projects close to completion, and any leftover funds will go toward those, he said.

In addition to solar energy projects, the state program also covers geothermal and small wind projects.

One change is that the the rules for the federal stimulus program require the solar rebate recipients to get an energy audit of their building, O’Mara said.

The Sustainable Energy Utility, a state-organized nonprofit group, will subsidize much of that cost, he said.

“We’re committed to making good on every promise that was made to residents or businesses that have put up solar or other renewable technology,” O’Mara said.

For those who haven’t started their applications at all, the state is considering a new program to allow residents and businesses to finance solar panels using renewable energy credits, O’Mara said.

The existing rebate program used to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of buying and installing solar panels on a home of a Delmarva Power customer.

But last year, the popularity of the program caused state officials to scale back the size of new rebates to 25 percent.

The state benefit shrunk as the federal rebates grew. The federal government offers a 30 percent rebate which used to be capped at $2,000. That cap was lifted last year.

The SEU two weeks ago also announced a new slate of the initiatives that take advantage of federal stimulus money.

The new programs include the Delaware Home Star program, which will offer rebates on heating, cooling, and hot water equipment, as well as insulation and weatherization.

The rebates will likely be 50 cents for every dollar invested, allowing homeowners to pay off investments in half the time, O’Mara said.

Homeowners will need an energy audit to participate in the program, which is expected to be up and running in June, he said.

An SEU program to offer financing and rebates to businesses and nonprofit organizations is expected to begin June 15. The loans, for up to $250,000, are to be invested in efficiency and small-scale renewables and can be repaid in up to 10 years, the SEU said.

The SEU, set up several years ago by the General Assembly, gets its own money from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a cap-and-trade system designed to reduce carbon pollution, as well as bond issues.

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Maryland Governor to accelerate the solar RPS

APRIL 22, 2010

Maryland Governor to accelerate the solar RPS

In a press release issued by the Governor’s office, Governor Martin O’Malley has prioritized solar electricity in his 2010 agenda. He plans to increase the solar RPS requirement in the earlier years. Currently, compared to other states, Maryland’s RPS solar requirement increases exponentially in the later years. It appears the Governor is planning to straighten out the growth path so that more solar is required earlier.  This is great news for the industry in Maryland in the next five years because it allows the state to remain competitive with other states in the region while the solar industry is in its formative years. Hopefully this will help establish the state at the foreground of industry along with New Jersey and Delaware.  Here are the specific agenda items relating to the solar RPS:

This legislation will accelerate Maryland’s solar RPS requirements in the early years (2011 – 2017), resulting in more residential and commercial solar installation and greater job creation.

It will make the phase-in of the Solar RPS more evenly distributed over the next decade and provide more long-term support for Maryland‘s growing solar industry. This change will put the State’s solar goals more in line with New Jersey and Delaware.

Additional solar energy in Maryland will decrease peak load electricity prices in the summertime, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by displacing fossil-fueled powered generation, create new green jobs, and help Maryland meet its renewable energy goals.

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Delmarva Power, regulators agree on rate proposal

APRIL 22, 2010

Delmarva Power, regulators agree on rate proposal

WILMINGTON, DEL. – Delaware regulators have backed a plan from Delmarva Power that would cause lower-usage customers to take on higher increases on their bills than those who used more electricity.

The utility announced a settlement on Friday with the Public Service Commission staff and the Division of the Public Advocate to support the proposal. The move is part of Delmarva’s proposal to increase delivery rates.

Plans call for giving each customer their own flat delivery fee tied to their summer 2008 usage, and a 3.7 percent permanent increase in customers’ total bill.

Under the agreement, rate increases and decreases would be capped for the very smallest and largest electricity users.

The plan still requires the Public Service Commission’s approval.

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Delaware Seeks To Increase Renewable Portfolio Standard

APRIL 22, 2010

Delaware Seeks To Increase Renewable Portfolio Standard

Adding to a growing number of states seeking to increase their percentage of power from renewable sources, Gov. Jack Markell introduced the Delaware Clean Energy Jobs Act.  A key component of the legislation is increasing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which governors often say generates job growth.

The overarching goal of the Delaware bill is to create a competitive climate for the clean energy market, which is addressed under four main goals, including:

Setting a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for the state to receive 30 percent of its energy supplies from renewable sources by 2029 (up from 20 percent);

Facilitating job creation through modifications to the existing RPS and expanding local manufacturing to establish Delaware as a national leader in the adoption of renewable energy;

Driving local economic development by creating a new “local generation” component to the RPS and incentives for the use of systems manufactured in Delaware through enhanced renewable energy credit values; and,

Modernizing the Green Energy Fund by establishing a market-based method for financing renewable energy projects.

A fact sheet outlining the Delaware Clean Energy Jobs Act is available at: http://governor.delaware.gov/docs/clean-energy-jobs-act-summary.pdf.

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City of Newark, DE to Raise Electric Rates

APRIL 22, 2010

City of Newark, DE to Raise Electric Rates

The Newark City Council is moving toward an increase in electric rates as a way to deal with a $4.6 million revenue shortfall.

The move came on Monday night as the Mayor and City Council hosted a budget workshop aimed at addressing financial challenges facing the municipality.

Councilmen viewed the 2010/2011 financial forecast for governmental funds, the 2011 Capital Improvement Program for governmental funds, and the possibility of cutting city services and programs to reduce the budget shortfall.

An increase in the electric rate will come up for a vote in an upcoming council meeting.

City Finance Director Dennis McFarland suggested to the council that the electric rate hike be increased from an additional $.017 per kilowatt hour to $.026 per kilowatt hour to help ensure that the utility budget goal of $4.6 million is met. Due to a cool summer, last year’s electric consumption was down considerably from years past, thus creating a shortfall in city revenues. By instituting the increase as early as May, McFarland told the council that the revenue goal could be met for the year.

He also stated that the increase will only be used to ensure that revenue levels are met and that the rate could be adjusted downward when consumption reaches normal, anticipated levels. The average household would see an increase of about $12 per month at the new rate.

With the increase, the Newark rate would be on par with New Castle County residential electric rates. McFarland cautioned that if the rate hike does not go into effect, an additional $4.6 million would need to be raised or an equal amount would have to be cut from the operating budget.